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Ballincollig RFC 'shocked and disappointed' as women senior status vote doesn't go ahead

A motion at the Munster Branch AGM was withdrawn to allow for ‘further consultation with stakeholders’, according to Munster Rugby.

A view of the Munster Rugby crest on display at Thomond Park.
A view of the Munster Rugby crest on display at Thomond Park.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

BALLINCOLLIG RFC SAY equality is lacking in Munster Rugby following the withdrawal of a motion that would grant women’s All-Ireland League (AIL) clubs senior status at yesterday’s AGM of the Munster Branch.

The same senior status is enjoyed by clubs with men’s senior teams in the AIL.

Munster Rugby say the motion was withdrawn to allow for further consultation with stakeholders. 

Senior status for women’s AIL clubs means those involved in women’s rugby can more easily become part of decision-making committees and also allows for access to greater resources including more international match tickets from the IRFU, which helps drive sponsorship. 

The fact the motion has not yet passed means Munster remain an outlier in Ireland on the subject with Leinster, Munster, and Ulster all bestowing senior status upon clubs whose senior women’s teams play in the top two divisions of the AIL. Of 60 clubs across the men’s and women’s AIL, Ballincollig are the only one operating without senior status. 

The club say they are “shocked and disappointed” by the withdrawal of the motion, for which they say they were given neither notice nor explanation. The club are seeking an urgent meeting with Munster Rugby and the IRFU to rectify the matter. 

“Ballincollig RFC are shocked and disappointed that, after 12 months in the works, the motion to grant Women’s AIL clubs senior status was withdrawn without notice or explanation before the Munster Branch AGM last night”, read a club statement. 

“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with Munster Rugby and the IRFU to see what steps can be taken to rectify this and bring our province in line with the others who recognise their Women’s AIL clubs as senior. 

“In what has been a turbulent period for the Women’s game it is disappointing that equality is still something that needs to be fought for and that not all Munster rugby players are considered equal.” 

Initial news of the withdrawing of the motion was met with strong condemnation from several international players.

Ciara Griffin, the recently-retired Irish international captain, quoted Munster Rugby’s ethos of ‘Community, Passion, Integrity, Ambition and Excellence’, adding, “This, I’m afraid, is the complete opposite.” 

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fiona-hayes Fiona Hayes, pictured working as Munster women's U18 Head Coach in 2019. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“Surely this is an April fools joke?!?, tweeted former Irish international and current Ballincollig Head Coach Fiona Hayes. “Disappointed to hear this last night. Equality is a long way off in this game I love.” 

Anna Caplice, who last played for Ireland in November, said the news is “another fine example of how exhausting it is to be a female rugby player…especially in Ireland.” 

In a statement, Munster said a vote on the motion has been “deferred to allow time for appropriate consultation with all key stakeholders.” 

Munster Branch President Sean McCullough said, “While the Branch supports the proposed motions, we need to undertake a comprehensive review of the bye-laws and engage with all stakeholders to ensure we make the appropriate and necessary changes.

“As we all promote and support increased inclusivity and diversity across the game, we need to ensure our club’s governance structures reflect this and that we are catering for our community.”

When contacted by The42, an IRFU spokesperson said the Union “note, support and echo Munster’s support for the motion”, and “are confident it will pass in June, and look forward to it doing so.” Both Munster Rugby and the IRFU say they are available to meet with Ballincollig on the matter.

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Gavin Cooney

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